Final public discussion: THE STATE COUNCIL FOR PREVENTION OF CHILD DELINQUENCY submitted a proposal to initiate amendments in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia to the Ministry of Justice based on the recommendations in the Case study of child marriages.

The two years actualization and research on the issue of child marriages by the association ROMA S.O.S. was today presented in Prilep in the presence of health, social, educational local institutions, the Primary Court, the Roma community, journalists, international, national and local organizations.

Child marriages are a social phenomenon that adversely affects the lives of young individuals. The young people who believe that love is the leading force in the creation of their future, their parents who don’t want and don’t know how to deal with such behavior, and simultaneously competent institutions that are limited in their actions, uninformed timely about the cases and unsure to whom to report, all together form a circle of violations of the rights provided with international and national legislation.

We are all responsible for the phenomenon of child marriages and we are obliged to focus on reducing its number, which unfortunately has not yet been determined, but all institutions and associations in their work notice the consequences it leaves on the integration of children: termination of education, early pregnancy, many children, poverty, economic dependence and domestic violence. This appearance is seriously reflected among girls, but is often observed among boys too.

About the problem it is spoken by Roma associations and with Roma communities because the problem is mostly present there and because the society has perceived it as a tradition for years, ‘letting’ the children’s rights to be violated from various aspects. At the same time the parent care silences because they are not conscious that it is a crime. They avoid speaking publicly about the problem, since they are afraid that in that manner they will harm their own children and at the same time they will end up to be an object of additional stigmatization.

ROMA S.O.S. aiming to provide arguments FOR and AGAINST this phenomenon and thus enable to be spoken about this problem publicly, mobilizing all the involved sides in the effort for children protection, prepared a Case study that was promoted in October, in 5 municipalities in Macedonia. Today was held the final event of the campaign where the results and the reached effects were presented:

  • Wide consultation that covered a total of 155 people: local associations; Roma community; Primary Public Prosecution, health, social and educational institutions; Ministry of Interior, primary courts, law offices, legal practitioners and students.
  • Approved and confirmed all the conclusions and recommendations from the Case study; The problem and the cases are being identically repeated in each municipality; Three key points are being defined and all the consulted sides stand behind them.
  • An open data base to document cases of child marriages, regardless of ethnicity, in all municipalities covered by the project.
  • Encouraged parents to seek protection for their children through legal mechanisms, for which the investigation of a case of child marriage in front of the Primary Public Prosecution and the Primary Court – Bitola at the request of a parent / guardian for a person who isn’t 16 years old yet – stands as a confirmation.

The key point that was emphasized today was the change that began even before we officially initiated it, since no one remained immune to the problem and every stakeholder in the society accepted the commitment as serious need for providing humane and dignified life for all citizens, especially the young population who should generationally stop the gap and direct the path to an overall progress of the state. Namely, the initiative for amendments of the Criminal Code is raised to the Ministry of Justice by the State council for prevention of child delinquency. On the 35th session held on 08.11.2016 there was a thematic debate on the issue of child marriages in the Republic of Macedonia. The object of discussion of this debate was the case study: “The grey area” between tradition and child marriages.

The State Council in their explanation pointed out that ‘the research shows the institutions in Macedonia don’t recognize these child marriages and the legislation is not harmonized with the international standards. In this respect the State Council is of the opinion that in order to realize the best interests of the child, the Ministry of Justice as soon as possible should accede to amend the Criminal Code in accordance with the indicated recommendation: “Harmonization of existing legislation in order to explicitly ensure that the minimum legal age for a person to live in marital community is 18 and providing legal mechanisms/procedures of the competent institutions to conduct such a crime in direction that in the law is not sanctioned the situation where an adult lives in extramarital community with a person who has reached 16 years and not 18 years, with or without the consent of a parent or guardian. Therefore, it is necessary to move the upper limit from 16 to 18 years and that will allow the competent institutions to act coordinated and take measures in cases of extramarital community and thus protect their rights.“

We are ready for the change, remains the Ministry of Justice to accept and process it further to the decision makers i.e. the Parliament.

Simultaneously, the advocating of all other recommendations will last until the moment of full implementation of the legislative amendments that will only upgrade the initiated change and will ensure the continuous or long-term sustainability in protection of the children’s rights in Republic of Macedonia.

What did the participants say?

Bertrand Desmoulins – representative of the UNICEF office in Skopje in his introduction speech said that we should work to change the laws, but also to change the mentality of the community in order not to accept too quickly such early marriages and to protect girls from such communities, since very often these marital communities are not a result of real love, but of 16-year-old’s love, that the next day or month are reflected on their decisions so they regret that they concluded an early marriage. He pointed out that a lot of work is coming ahead, but now that there is awareness about the problem everyone need to fight for this practice to stop.

Zurija Sait –National network to end violence against women and domestic violence emphasized that there are omissions in the laws and that is why they should be amended. She pointed out that in the domestic legislation the gender based violence is not defined in any law or in the bylaws. The only definition that exists is the one in the national strategy for gender equality from 2013 till 2020, which is completely taken by the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women of 1993. Sait explained that the gender based violence is the violence that results with or is probable to result with physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering of women, including threats of such acts, coercion or deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life. The gender violence can include physical, but also psychological dimension, there are many forms of it and it can occur throughout the entire life cycle. The child marriages are a recognized form of gender and domestic violence by the United Nations. She was also talking about the Istanbul convention that defines all forms of violence against girls and women where all the harmful traditional practices such as child marriages and forced marriages are included. Sait emphasized that all these harmful practices are not criminalized in the domestic legislation and that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention is necessary, since it will bring changes in the laws and incriminate harmful traditional practices.

Jane Trenchevski – president of the Primary Court – Prilep pointed out that we should influence the mentality, since the normative element can be easily solved. He welcomed the initiative for law changes, but only if it is functional.  Everyone should react when we are treating children’s issues, said Trenchevski. Normative regulations along with mobilization and overcoming of the own mental framework should provide success.

Irena Pepidjanova –  high school “Riste Risteski – Richko” Prilep welcomed the initiative of ROMA S.O.S. and Nesime Salioska and said that this is a striking example of breaking the social prejudices imposed to the Roma people. She pointed out that this campaign incorporates the overall knowledge and intelligence. She said that she is representing a local high school, where all ethnicities are included. In her 20 years of work and until recently only Roma student were abandoning the education, but the things changed and now child marriages are concluded also among Bosnians and Macedonians. She emphasized that in order for the public awareness to be raised there should be public lectures that will be starting even in the pre-school age which will refer to the significance of the educational process. She pointed out that the power can be found only in the educated nation and if the problems are faced at an early age and the educational network is expanded, than in the future there will be less and less such problems and examples.

Izabela Kuzmanoska – Ministry of Interior Prilep shared an experience from the previous week when her colleagues after reported charge of assault found out of an extramarital community between a child born in 2001 and an adult born in 1972. She said that this is a practical experience, where the parent didn’t report anywhere neither asked for help and the extramarital community has excisted  for a year. The police found out quite accidently. In conversation with them they said love should not be punished, but in her belief in this case we are not talking about love but about pedophilia. She emphasized that the sexual assault of a child is the worst offense and it is strictly sanctioned, because the consequences are permanent. She welcomed the initiative for amendments in the Criminal Code, but noted that we should work on raising awareness among the parents first and among the children after. For children at risk, she said that they report to the Centre for Social Work in oral and written forms. Kuzmanoska added that the data base for such cases is at the CSW since all the deviant behavior is registered there because they are the most relevant institution.

Mile Bosnjakovski UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) shared his complete support for the law harmonization and pointed out that these legal amendments will contribute to the partial overcome of the problem of child marriages that are concluded legally with the consent of the parents, but the problem will remain untouched at the segment where there are traditional unregistered marriages and that is where the work has to continue. He pointed out that the work with the community is extremely important, that is of the leaders in the community even the political leaders in the Roma community for the overall uprooting of this problem, since we are speaking about a long term process.

Nesime Salioska – ROMA S.O.S. Prilep concluded that it is important to create the pre-conditions for a normal and humane living, and that the long awaited generational change should start. She informed that during this campaign а special focus was put to the Roma community, but this is a social phenomenon and these kinds of problems and consequences can be noted everywhere. She emphasized that if the legal changes are adopted, it will be for the sake of all citizens, they will be implemented for the Albanians, the Turks, the Bosnians, the Roma and for the Macedonians, aimed to a better future for all. She noted that this was the last discussion of the campaign, henceforth the efforts for change will be happening internally within certain ministries, but that decision will be taken by the MPs when there are political conditions for it. In the meantime, the message should be spread through all the available channels, so that these practices, which harm everyone and especially the children, stop.

Theory and practice – what and where concretely is present the noncompliance


»Photos of the event

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQoVlvbE7Rw